I’m told that Valentine’s Day will be here in 2 weeks.  Whoop-d-friggin’-do.  The last time Valentine’s Day was interesting was the time when my then-husband and my boyfriend (17 years younger) both sent me flowers at work. Yes, they knew about each other.  No, I won’t go into the details.  That time of my life is better left incorporated into a fictional novel rather than trying to explain it.  You might as well try asking a 6-year-old to explain why she thought it was a good idea to put the cat in the washing machine. 

That, among other random thoughts, is what happens at 5 am as I fight for bed covers that a 65-pound dog insists belong to her. 

I strained to push her off, started to straighten the covers and…wham!  She was on the bed again.  After the 4th scolding, she found it prudent to slink away.  I  snuggled under the covers–asleep again–only to awaken when I dreamt I was sitting on an iceberg. 

There’s only so much I can do about it.  If I push her out the bedroom door, she’ll whine until the guilt sets in.  If I put her outside, she barks until the neighbors complain.  When did dogs get together and decide this is the best way to torture a human?  I curled into a fetal position and began to think about another form of torture…the full-time job.

  • What makes a full-time job seem like it’s part-time?  
  • What makes work worthwhile?  And…
  • What’s the difference between a career and a job?  

I’m up, sipping on my Irish Breakfast Tea in my home office, the offending dog now sitting on my feet as I contemplate the catalyst for these questions.  It was a passing comment, one that at 5am grew into a morning monster until I was awake enough to reason it out.   After review, it would seem a lie if it weren’t that I genuinely believed it to be true at the time.  What was the comment?  I said that I’ve worked full-time for about 6 years of my life, stating that all my other jobs were part-time.

My mouth doesn’t always spew out what my mind wants it to, but in this case I can’t blame my inexplicable penchant for replacing a word with one that—once repeated to me—I would swear on a holy book I hadn’t said.  I might be thinking “It looks like she’s wearing gold” and it comes out as, “It looks like she’s weaving gulls.”  Most people who know me will ask, “Did you really mean to say (insert stupid words here).”  Unfortunately, I can’t claim that was the case in this instance.

What’s the difference between a career and a job?    Years ago I was told that a career is your life’s work.  A job is 8-hours a day, 40 hours a week filled with doing something you hate while being lorded over by a pin-prick of a boss whose sole purpose in his life is to make your life as miserable as possible.  The worst job was as a receptionist.  Everyone is your boss, and there isn’t a person in the place who appreciates the fact that both your husband and boyfriend sent you flowers at work on Valentine’s Day.

What makes a full-time job seem like it’s part-time?   A part-time job is determined by how many hours a week (generally around 32) an employer can squeeze out of you without paying benefits.   In my case, the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had was considered part-time, one in which I worked no less than 60 hours a week.  Besides the obvious hell of a full-time reception job, there was a 2-day a week bookkeeping job that felt like it was full-time.  The boss insisted that the computer “ding” every time I made a mistake.  Pavlov would have been proud.

What makes work worthwhile?   Ah…now I’m getting to the heart of it.  What’s the difference between job and joy?  What is the line of demarcation between hopping out of your bed in the morning anxious to work, or pulling the covers over your head to contemplate what excuse you’re going to use when you walk in late…again—if at all.

My BAID (My, but alas I digress).  The purpose of this blog is to explore why I would tell someone that I’ve only worked full-time for a total of 6 years of my life. 

When I look back on those 6 non-consecutive years, in each of those full-time jobs:

  •  I worked 8 – 5 in an office where someone else told me what to do and how to do it.   I’ll bring up the hell that’s called receptionist work again.  I had to beg someone to answer the phone so I could go to the bathroom…and did I mention that EVERYONE in the office was my boss?
  • I felt as if there were 1,000 other people who could fill my job and I’d never be missed.
  • I walked into the door wondering what new humiliation would be waiting for me that day, what mind-numbing task I would be assigned.
  • I felt as if 9 hours were being sucked out of me 5 days a week.  If there are such things as succubus or incubus, there has to be a workubus—a creature whose only purpose is to screw you over while sucking the life out of you as you try to make a living. 

I’ll go back to that 60 hour a week part-time job.  What made the difference? 

  • Although I was self-employed and contracting with the state to provide a service, I was my own boss.  There were guidelines I had to follow, but I followed them MY way. 
  • I worked at home, so I could work 2 hours in a day if I didn’t feel well, or 12  – 16 hours at a time when I felt it was necessary.  I didn’t have to ask anyone to watch the phone when I went to the bathroom, and could take a 3-hour lunch if I wanted to.
  • I was the best at what I did.  My experience meant something, and I helped a lot of people.  I was told at least 1 time per week that I was irreplaceable (Whether it’s true or not, it engenders a great deal more job satisfaction than being told by your boss that not only are you replaceable but their dog could do it better).

What is the difference between job and joy, part-time and full-time?   For me, the key was to break away from the chains of someone else’s office.  It wasn’t an easy step, but one I was forced into taking by necessity.  Fortunately,  I had a mentor who walked me though every phase of it, giving me support and encouragement until I could stand on my own merits.  My work became my life, my joy, a fulfillment of purpose I never thought I would find.  To sum it up into one sentence:  Most of the time it didn’t seem like work. 

Now, due to genetic flaws that come at me with a left hook when I least expect it (through disorders/syndromes I never heard of before they hit me), I’m no longer able to work more than a few hours a week.  I’m a self-employed consultant, my opinion is valued, my hours vary according to when I’m able to function, and I can use my home office, too. 

If you consider all of the above, I really have worked full-time for 6 years and part-time (in time or in spirit) for the remainder.  It just took a dog hogging the blankets at 5am and a cup of Irish Breakfast tea to figure it out.